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As February blows away softly on the south wind I've been thinking about that nice Steelhead last week. I didn't say much about it at the time, but I've had the pleasure of going over the experience in my mind. Thought I'd share a little of that before the March Steelhead reports begin.
One of the notable things about this catch was that it was the first time I've caught Steelhead in back-to-back trips to the river. I had caught this one just the week before. That bodes well, perhaps, for increasing numbers of fish in the river.
Another thing is that I caught them both in the same location. Right there:
Based on the riffles, there's a pothole there, and based on wading explorations in former times, it can't be very deep; maybe three feet. There are other potholes, too, but these two fish liked this one best. Later, on a sunny day, I'll see if I can make out the lie.
On both occasions I fished out the run with no further hookups, leading me to believe that these are solitary fish. There is another explanation, of course--that's what keeps us going back out there again--that there may have been two or three more fish in the area, but they scattered. Maybe I need to wait longer before going back through the run.--give them time to come back to their lies.
Finally, this is my biggest Steelhead to date, a good thirty inches. On one lovely morning in September on the Grande Ronde a few years ago I hooked four and landed two. The last one I hooked would have beat this one, I think. I had already caught two in the mid-twenty range, and I had that fish right up within three feet of me, close enough to have measured it over thirty in my mind's eye. But I couldn't budge it out of the current into slack water. And then the fly popped out.
On this occasion I hadn't changed the setup from the trip before. I was using the sink tip, and had kept the short leader--about 18 inches of 8X, and 18 inches of 6X. I had on the requisite Stonefly nymph, the same one that had enticed the smaller fish the last time out. The current is slower here, so the swings were nice and deep. I wasn't using a loop.
This time there wasn't a grab; I just felt a bump. Then the line began to go out slowly--I had the drag set very light--and I waited, waited, waited too long. Just as I raised the rod to set the hook I saw a big head come out of the water, the fish rolled, and I missed.
I went right back. Nothing. So I waded out and sat down to give the fish some time to settle down. I decided to change the fly--from an olive-bodied fly to a brown-bodied fly with a black thorax. After about ten minutes I went in again and worked my way up to where this time I knew the fish was--or should be.
The take was exactly the same, and this time I didn't wait as long. I set hard and the fish was on. Like the previous fish, the hook was firmly embedded in the upper jaw just to the right side. No blazing runs, but a lot of headshaking and rolling, and a few deep, slow, strong runs. It took awhile to get this fish in, and I felt that good ache in my rod wrist as I kept the pressure on.
When I finally had him in the shallows I tried to tail him, but I couldn't get a grip. So I picked him up with both hands and moved him up for some photos. I carried him back out afterward and before I could put him in the water he twisted out of my hands, splashed into the water and swam strongly away.
Nice. Very, very nice.